Thursday, July 30, 2009

Jack Campisi's Brief History of the Brothertown Indians of Wisconsin, Part 2

The Brothertown Indians' Tribal Storyteller, Dick Welch, shows his daughter, Shelley Dekker, a historical display at the Fond du Lac Public Library (in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin). Jack Campisi gives credit to Samson Occom for persuading the following Native villages or communities to join together and move west to live near the Oneidas: "Mohegan, Mashantucket, Stonington, and Farmington in Connecticut; Charleston and Niantic in Rhode Island; and Montawk [or Montauk] on Long Island."

However, it was not long after the first group completed their migration that they were forced to flee as a result of the Revolutionary War. It was not safe for them to return until 1783. However, by as early 1785, white land speculators started to pressure the tribe to sell its land.

Despite being somewhat involved with the earlier removal plans of the Stockbridge Indians and Eleazar Williams, Campisi tells us that it was not until 1831 that bands of Brothertown Indians began to move from New York to Wisconsin. He adds that the migration happened gradually, with"members still joining as late as 1841."

Campisi's next two paragraphs are very important for understanding Brothertown history:

The tribe was hardly settled in its new location [in Calumet County, WI] having been pressured out of New York and pushed off its land in Kaukauna [aka Statesburg], when a new threat appeared. The federal government entered into negotiations with the tribes in New York and Wisconsin to exchange their lands for land in the Indian Territory of Kansas. On January 15, 1838, the United States concluded the Treaty of Buffalo Creek.

Once again the Brothertown tribe was in danger of being uprooted and forced to move. Once again, it was apparent that the cause of the problem was the manner in which the tribe held its land. By a perversity of law, as long as the land was held in common and inalienable, it was subject to loss by government action. The remedy, some thought, was to protect it in the same manner as the property of non-Indians was protected; through private ownership.

And so the Brothertown Indians chose to become citizens.

This series will continue.

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